Natural Soap is NOT Soap at all!
If you've landed on this page looking for a lye-free soap recipe, then let us inform you that any soap without lye is not soap at all'. This is just a plain fact.
No, we haven't found any soap formulas that are totally free from lye, nor will you find any anywhere else. You see, there are some basic ingredients that go into making soap, and they are lye and fat. Lye + Fat = Soap. It's as simple as that really. Soap making without these ingredients simply isn’t soap.
You may be wondering how making organic soap is achieved if there is no such thing as lye free soap? Well, to be honest, there isn't a truly organic soap because it all needs to be produced using lye in the production process. But here's something you might want to know that helps better understand why certain soaps boast the lye-free label, and that is, no finished soap should actually contain lye. During the soap making process, the soap product is produced by reacting lye with oils (fats). The lye is consumed by this reaction and so none should remain in the end product.
Let's be honest here folks in that soap making recipes are probably not the most sought after thing when compared to info sheets for other popular hobbies. The number of people looking for soap supplies & ingredients for homemade soaps is hardly up there with stamp collecting, homemade jams, knitting, and all the other favourite pastimes, but it's equally as geekish nonetheless. Ask someone where to buy lye and they will probably look at you as if you're an alien from out of space. All this said, lye soap making (not lye free soap making), has its supporters and just as we can buy cakes yet decide to make our own, so do some people like to produce their own lye soaps at home.
We all love out bathroom smellies, yet very few of us actually know, or question, how they are made, or what ingredients they contain. All most of us care about is the packaging, brand reputation, the look, the feel, the smell, and the results. But a little knowledge is sometimes to our advantage, as this can help us to make better informed decisions on what we purchase and why.
How many of us have heard about farm fresh goat milk soap, or African Black Soap and a plethora of others? We all use them, and we all take them for granted, but we usually purchase such items on a system based on trust and hype. Lye soap sounds like a kind of special brand of soap, but the fact of the matter is that no soap can be made without it and any product that promotes lye free soap, is not really soap at all.
Let us look at this in a little more detail: Handmade natural soap is about as natural as you'll get it, presuming its 'actual' soap you're wanting to make? If you're looking for a home made soap recipe that doesn't contain Lye, then you're not actually making soap at all. Lye free soap is a misleading term because whatever the end product is, if there ain't no lye used, then it most definitely is not a soap product. The same goes for folks making organic soap. If we interpret the word 'organic' to mean raw, or pure, then it too is misleading because it too has to contain lye.
As you will already know, water alone will not cut through and clean anything with fat, oil and grease. Such substances need to be broken down. Come in the soaps! Soaps not only mix well with water, but they also mix with all the afore mentioned oils along with other stubborn substances. A portion of any soap chemical is ‘hydrophilic’, or ‘water loving’, and allows it to dissolve freely in water. The other half of soap compounds, however, is ‘hydrophobic This part of the soap allows it to mix with fats and oils, since they are also hydrophobic. This formula involves lye, so you can see, any so called lye free soap just wouldn't cut it as 'real' soaps do.
So hopefully now this piece has helped to explained why there can be no lye free soap as such, meaning that the making a purely organic bar soap is not possible. Here's a little more interesting information on our common everyday soaps. When water with soap dissolved in it comes in contact with a fat based compound, the hydrophobic portion of the soap molecule attaches to the fat. The fat soon becomes completely covered in soap molecules and then breaks apart due to the soaps mutual attraction to the water molecules flowing around it. On a side note, this emulsification process is actually the same way we digest fat that we eat, with the liver made substance ‘bile’ acting as the ‘soap’. Bacteria, dirt, and other undesirable contaminants to our skin tend to get trapped in layers of oil than won’t readily come off with our using soap.
There are records of soap use that date as far back as ancient Babylon in the third millennium BC, espcially those using natural ingredients such as Bamboo Charcoal Soap. Strangely, the Romans were not known to use soap. Though the word ‘soap’ first appears in a text written by the famous Roman scholar ‘Pliny the Elder’, he refers to it as a kind of ancient hair gel in use in some regions of the time, not for its detergent qualities.
Lye soap of the kind we know today was invented by the Arabs well after the fall of the Roman Empire, in either the 6th or 7th centuries AD. The formula is the same basic formula we still use today. Generally, lye soaps are made by mixing animal fats with lye. Because lye is such a caustic chemical, this can be a dangerous process, but the resulting lye soap is of course harmless. Several alternative fats can be used to make a lye soap, many people make their own soaps at home using olive oil. Soap made with olive oil is sometimes called Castile soap, after the region of Spain in which it first became popular. If you want to get hold of a homemade soap recipe, then do a search online or check back here for updates and links to homemade soap recipes.
There's no question of doubt that we do love our soapy products here in the west. It's not just the fragrance we're attracted to, but the whole experience which includes smell, touch, appearance, and experience, packaging and lather along with hyped up benefits are what keeps out love affair with lye soap going.
Footnote: Because we're living in a world where everything is mass produced and therefore the same, people are beginning to look at unique products. This means back to the good old days where a label with 'handmade' hanging off a product really meant something. Soaps are no different. There are some weird and wonderful soaps for sale in the numerous supermarkets and cosmetic departments, but they're available to everyone and anyone. Many creative individuals are seeing the niche and beginning to sell their unique homemade lye soaps to others and from some of the early reports from women in particular, this relatively new concept of a homemade soap making business is showing great potential.